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Bombay HC gives state week’s time to decide on door-to-door vaccination for elderly, specially abled

"In the event a decision is taken permitting door-to-door vaccination prior to adjourned date of hearing (June 22), all concerned shall be free to implement the same immediately," the bench noted in the order.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
June 15, 2021 1:31:38 am
After the court inquired with additional government pleader Geeta Shastri about the progress in such a decision, she sought time to take instructions and respond to the query. (File)

THE BOMBAY High Court on Monday asked the state government to make an “appropriate” decision on the issue of door-to-door vaccination of the elderly and specially abled persons, within a week.

This came after the central government reiterated its stand that “door-to-door” vaccination was not advisable at present and, therefore, it expected the Maharashtra government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to follow “near-to-home” national policy instead.

The Centre also said the near-to-home policy for bedridden and severely ill, based on the recommendations of National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC), was an “advisory/guideline”.

“In the event a decision is taken permitting door-to-door vaccination prior to adjourned date of hearing (June 22), all concerned shall be free to implement the same immediately,” the bench noted in the order.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni passed directions while hearing a PIL filed by city-based lawyers, Dhruti Kapadia and Kunal Tiwari, seeking directions to the Centre, the state government and the BMC to provide door-to-door facility for people aged over 75, specially abled and those bedridden.

Last week, the bench asked the Centre to respond to a June 10 letter written by BMC Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal to the health ministry, expressing the civic body’s willingness to conduct door-to-door drives for severely ill and bedridden people and seeking guidelines for the same.

On Monday, additional solicitor general Anil Singh for the Centre submitted a response by Manohar Agnani, additional secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which stated that door-to-door vaccination cannot be adopted at present due to Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) and cold chain protocols.

It also said Near-to-Home Covid Vaccination Centres (NHCVC) for the elderly and specially abled persons could be operationalised. The health ministry said “near to home” vaccination will remain a national policy till further changes and ‘door to door’ policy was not advisable.

When the Court asked Singh if the Centre has prohibited Kerala, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Odisha, which are carrying out door-to-door inoculation for the needy, Singh responded in the negative and added that “health was the state’s subject”.

“From such reply by ASG Singh, it clearly appears to us that there is no categorical prohibition imposed by the central government for the states to undertake a door-to-door vaccination programme, for the elderly and disabled as described by us in June 9 order,” the High Court noted.

Kapadia referred to a news report where the state health minister Rajesh Tope had said his department was working on allowing home inoculation for the bedridden, and also for those who could not go to vaccination centres.

After the court inquired with additional government pleader Geeta Shastri about the progress in such a decision, she sought time to take instructions and respond to the query.

Senior advocate Anil Sakhare for the BMC, responding to the court’s query on if the civic body will follow the Centre’s policy or the state’s decision, submitted that the civic authority would follow directions of the state government and, presently, it would await such directions. Seeking response from the state, the HC will hear the PIL next on June 22.

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